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Isolation Arias: Quirijn de Lang

Dutch baritone Quirijn de Lang made his Opera North debut as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte in 2009.

Recent notable performances for the Company include Fred Graham/Petruchio in Kiss Me, Kate, Danilo in The Merry Widow, Lieutenant Audebert in the British premiere of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night, Harry Easter in Kurt Weill’s Street Scene and Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. He can currently be seen as Sam in the Opera North production of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti online.

“I believe that a person’s core musical taste is formed in a certain period of one’s life and for me that was from age 15, when I decided to be an opera singer, and 25, when I graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Understandably, this period of my life was marked by an insatiable appetite for new repertoire. On being asked for my Isolation Arias, I realised that all my picks come from this period of discovery.”

Listen to the Spotify playlist »

1. Verdi, Il trovatore: ‘Tace la notte! … Deserto sulla terra’

Verdi made me want to sing opera. The opening line, sung here by Ettore Bastianini, with the Maserati purr of his voice, is for me one of the most exciting recorded lines in history. And to have it followed by the warm steel of Leontyne Price and the rippling volcanic tenor of Franco Corelli, hanging on to his high notes for fun – it’s almost too much of a good thing.

Three powerhouse voices and a classy conductor; is there anything better than that?

2. Fauré: ‘En sourdine’ sung by Gérard Souzay

I met Souzay in New York during my studies, and I feel fortunate that I could shake his hand and thank him for introducing me to French mélodies and to Fauré in particular.

My favourite is one about lying on a hill under a tree with the one you love, dozing in the afternoon sun. I love the intricate harmonies tugging at Souzay’s warm voice.

3. Wolf Mörike-Lieder: ‘Im Frühling’ sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

A person whose hand I would have loved to shake and thank for introducing me to the vast world of German Lied is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

This is the German answer to my French pick. With intricate pulling harmonies galore, it’s about lying on a hill in the spring sunshine and feeling the delightful, uncomfortable pull of the future. Sehnsucht.

4. Bizet, The Pearl Fishers: ‘Seule au milieu de nous’ (Leila’s arrival)

I love the music of The Pearl Fishers: it is such a cinematic score.

We hear the arrival of the high priestess. She promises to stay celibate although she already sees the man she loves out of the corner of her eye. Her hesitation is noticed by the chieftain and he gives her the chance to opt out. She declares her decision to stay. The relief is heard in the villagers’ grateful prayer to Brahma. The camera then pans to the late afternoon sun warming the still ocean, and deserted beach… To be enjoyed at full volume!

5. Saint-Saëns: ‘The Swan’ sung by Richard Tauber

Richard Tauber was the best-selling recording artist during World War One. Lehár and Korngold wrote their lead roles for him. ‘Schmaltz’ is a Yiddish word for liquid fat and a term for sentimentality. Tauber’s singing has so much schmaltz, but to my ears it is so musically stylish and not sickly at all.

This song is a ridiculous adaptation of Saint-Saëns’ ‘Le Cygne’ for cello, but I ask you to put aside prejudice for a moment and just listen to how he sings this. I love everrrr-ything about it.

6. Robert Wright & George Forrest, after Borodin: Kismet ‘Stranger in Paradise’ sung by Gordon Macrae

Gordon Macrae is responsible for my falling in love with classic musicals.

‘Stranger in Paradise’ is a song from the musical Kismet, based on melodies from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor. For some modern schmaltz, listen to Macrae’s placing of -ng- in ‘Stranger’, -s- in ‘Lost’, and -er in ‘Danger’. It makes my stomach do a little joy flip.

7. Barber: Overture to The School for Scandal, Op. 5

This is not a vocal selection, but it always makes me happy. One of my best musical memories was watching James Levine rehearse this piece with the Curtis Orchestra on a Saturday afternoon in the same place Barber had written it 70 years earlier (he was a student there too).

This detailed performance by the Atlanta Symphony comes closest to the perfection I experienced that day.

8. Sammy Fain & Irving Kahal: ‘I’ll be seeing you’ sung by Sarah Vaughan

I leave you with the exquisite breath control and wide vocal colour palette of the incomparable Sarah Vaughan, in the hope that again, before too long – I’ll be seeing you.

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